Saving the Battlefields Where America Was Forged

A Project of the Civil War Trust |  civilwar.org

Key Figures of the American Revolution: The British and Loyalists

Military Personalities to Know

John Boyd (? -1779) – Colonel

Information about John Boyd is unfortunately, extremely sparse. Indeed, it is possible, albeit unlikely, that his name was actually James. In any event, Boyd was probably a landowner in South Carolina. At some point after the British capture of New York City, Boyd traveled north and met with Sir Henry Clinton, receiving a commission and orders to form a loyalist regiment in the South. In November 1778, Boyd accompanied Colonel Archibald Campbell’s expedition to Savannah, Georgia, which was captured by British forces on December 29, 1778. After Campbell followed up his victory by moving inland and capturing Augusta, Georgia, Boyd was dispatched north to raise of force of Loyalists in the Carolinas. He was attacked at Kettle Creek on his return journey after completing his recruitment expedition. Boyd was buried in an unmarked grave on the Kettle Creek battle site.

John Burgoyne (1722 - 1792) – General, Politician

John Burgoyne

(The Frick Museum)

Burgoyne, commissioned in the illustrious Horse Guards in 1737, served with great distinction during the Seven Years War, winning him fame and a seat in the House of Commons.  Shortly after war broke out with the American colonies in 1775, Burgoyne was promoted to the rank of Major-General, and was tasked with sending reinforcements up the St. Lawrence River to threaten the Hudson Valley.  Despite early success in the summer of 1776, Burgoyne was halted by the much larger American forces brought to bear by generals Gates, Schuyler, and Arnold.  Then, in a stunning defeat, Burgoyne was forced to surrender his army of 5,800 men at Saratoga in the fall of 1777.  Burgoyne never fully recovered his reputation following the embarrassing loss, and was blamed heavily for his army’s disastrous defeat.

John Carden (c. 1740 -1782) – Major

John Carden was born in Ireland sometime between 1738 and 1742. In 1759 he joined the 17th Regiment of Foot an ensign, earning a promotion to the rank of lieutenant in 1762. In 1767 he transferred to the 15th Regiment of Foot. It seems that he married one Sarah Surman around 1768 in Gretna Green in Scotland. He resigned from the British Army in 1771 but with the outbreak of war in America he reentered the service of his country. In 1776 or 1777 he joined the Prince of Wales’s American Regiment, a unit of American loyalists. He was commissioned as a major on April 24, 1777. Major Carden commanded Tory forces at the Battle of Hanging Rock in 1780, after which he continued to serve in South Carolina for another two years. Carden’s family seemed to have believed that he died at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781. In fact, Carden did not die, and was likely not even present at the battle, for on the day the battle occurred he married Judith Wragg in Charleston. Although documentation is scarce, some evidence indicates that he faked his own death and that he was still legally married to Sarah Surman when he married Wragg. Wragg died in September 1781 and on November 19 of that year, Carden was married again, this time to Kitty Hazard. Major Carden’s son, John Surman Carden, was captain of the British frigate HMS Macedonian when it was captured by Stephen Decatur and the USS United States in 1812. John Surman Carden later became an admiral and wrote a memoir which included considerable inaccuracies about his father. John Carden died in in South Carolina on October 31, 1782.

Guy Carleton (1724-1808) – Major General

Guy Carleton

(National Archives of Canada)

Carleton, a career Army officer of Anglo-Irish decent, was Governor of Quebec from 1768 to 1778 and 1785 to 1795. He was a veteran of the War of Austrian Succession, Jacobite Rebellion, and Seven Years War, serving with the 25th Regiment of Foot. During the Seven Years War Carleton was made Lieutenant Colonel of the 72nd Regiment of Foot. As Governor, Carleton was active during the defense of Canada; commanding the defenses during the Siege of Quebec and the British Fleet at the Battle of Valcour Island. Recalled to England after 1778, Carleton was named Sir Henry Clinton’s successor as military Commander-in-Chief after the surrender at Yorktown, overseeing the evacuation of New York in 1783. After the Revolutionary War, Carleton was appointed Governor-in-chief of British North America, overseeing Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, though his influence did little outside Quebec. Raised to the Peerage in 1786 as First Baron of Dorchester, he died in 1808. 

Sir Henry Clinton (1730-1795) – General, Politician

Sir Henry Clinton

(The American Museum in Britain)

Clinton, son of the Royal Governor of New York, George Clinton, journeyed to England as a young man where he took a military commission with the Coldstream Guards in 1751.  He distinguished himself as a soldier during the Seven Years' War, and as a result, in 1772 he was promoted to the rank of major general and obtained a seat in Parliament.  In 1775, Clinton arrived in the colonies and played an active role in the successful capture of New York City via the Battle of Long Island.  Following General Howe’s deplorable failure to assist Burgoyne in New York, Clinton replaced him as commander in chief of Britain's North American forces in 1778.

Henry Clinton (1730-1795) – General

Henry Clinton

(New York Public Library)

Henry Clinton was born in Newfoundland in 1730. George Clinton, his father, was an admiral in the British Navy and the governor of Newfoundland at the time. Henry followed his father to New York when George received a post as the governor in 1741. A few years later, Henry rose to a position as lieutenant of the New York militia and subsequently left for England to pursue his military career.

Henry first saw action in the Seven Years’ War. Starting out as a captain in the Coldstream Guards in the early 1750s, Henry eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the 1st Foot Guards, later renamed the Grenadier Guards. In 1762, he received a post in Germany during the war and became the aide-de-camp to Prince Ferdinand. In 1772, Henry achieved two major feats for a person of colonial birth: a seat in Parliament and a major generalship. Henry went on to achieve and acquire titles due to his family connections to the Duke of Newcastle.

Clinton was on his way to Boston with William Howe and John Burgoyne to reinforce the British position when he learned of the outbreak of the Revolution. Clinton and the other British generals worked together to reinforce Boston and break the siege. Clinton was present at the Battle of Bunker Hill, rallying and sending reinforcements to attack the position of the Continental Army and helping to secure a British victory. In 1776, he accompanied a failed British mission to capture Charleston and participated in two successful campaigns in New York and Long Island. His victories earned him the rank of lieutenant general.

The British planned a two-pronged assault for 1777: one army targeted Philadelphia and the other descended south from Montreal to Albany, New York. The King bypassed Clinton in favor of Burgoyne for command of the northern campaign. When Clinton tried to resign in protest, the King refused and ordered him back to New York, conceding a knighthood to appease him. The northern campaign would end terribly for the British with Burgoyne surrendering a large force at Saratoga.

After a disastrous year, General Howe submitted his resignation in protest, and Clinton replaced him as commander-in-chief of North America. The British, experiencing some success in the South the previous year, particularly at Savannah, Georgia, decided to turn their attention southward. Many believed latent Loyalists resided in the southern backcountry and would rally to the British upon an invasion. By 1780, Clinton initiated a siege of Charleston, South Carolina and eventually forced the surrender of the city, which marked a major British victory and sparked a campaign to secure the Carolina backcountry. From his headquarters in New York, Clinton maintained active communication with Cornwallis, the commander of the southern army, over the course of the campaign, although relations between the two generals deteriorated gradually. Sensing Cornwallis’s doom in the fall of 1781, Clinton attempted to reinforce him at Yorktown, but he was too late. Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown on October 19, 1781.

Despite Cornwallis’s prominent role in the loss and surrender, Clinton, as commander-in-chief, was blamed for the loss of the American colonies. Afterward, he published a narrative account of the war in an attempt to clear his name. By 1793, Clinton became a full general and received a post as the Governor of Gibraltar, but he died before he could assume the post.

Alexander Cochrane (April 23rd, 1758- January 26th, 1832) – Vice Admiral

Alexander Cochrane

(Wikepedia )

Alexander Inglis Cochrane was born on April 23, 1758, the younger son of Thomas Cochrane, a Scottish peer. He entered the Royal Navy as a boy, serving during the American Revolution. During the attack on Alexandria in 1801, part of British efforts to retake Egypt from French Revolutionary forces, Cochrane and his ship HMS Ajax, were among the first to enter the harbor. During the Napoleonic Wars, he was commander of the Leeward Islands Station and saw action at the Battle of San Domingo. In 1806, he was knighted into the Order of the Bath for his services. Promoted to Rear Admiral he was sent to occupy the Dutch West Indies and commanded the naval forces at Martinique. In 1814, he was promoted to Vice Admiral and made Commander-in-Chief of the North American Station. In this capacity, he was in charge of the naval forces that transported troops under Robert Ross for the attacks on Washington and Baltimore and commanded the bombardment of Fort McHenry. At New Orleans, Cochrane led the force that defeated the American gunboats at the Battle of Lake Borgne, enabling Edward Pakenham to land his troops to attack New Orleans. Cochrane was criticized for his role in the defeat at New Orleans, but still earned a promotion to Admiral in 1819. He was the Commander-in-Chief of Plymouth, one of the most senior positions in the Royal Navy, from 1821 to his retirement in 1824. He died at age 73 on January, 26 1832.

Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805) – General, Politician, Nobility

Charles Cornwallis

(Wikimedia Commons)

Charles Cornwallis was born on New Years’ Eve to an English ruling class family. His father Charles, the 5th Baron of Eye, sent Cornwallis to Eton, an exclusive private school, then to a military academy in Turin, Italy. Charles the 5th eventually bought his son an Ensign’s commission in the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, activating Cornwallis’s military career.  

Cornwallis began his military career in earnest during the Seven Years’ War, transferring to the 85th Regiment of Foot and serving in Germany for three years. After his father passed away in 1762, he replaced him as the Earl of Eye and took his seat in the House of Lords. During the first few years of his earldom, tensions between American colonists and the British crown rose to a boiling point. Cornwallis sympathized with the colonists and voted to repeal the Stamp Act; he was one of only five members to vote for this motion.

Colonial sympathies did not prevent him from serving the crown in the Revolution. In December 1775, following the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Cornwallis received a promotion to the rank of lieutenant general and departed for America. He arrived in the Carolinas in May 1776, but after failing to take Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, Charleston, South Carolina, he moved north to New York. British troops achieved victory at the Battle of New York, resulting in an American retreat across New Jersey. However, George Washington struck back at Trenton, New Jersey—much to the shock and chagrin of Cornwallis—with a surprise attack on the Hessian troops on Christmas Day.

In 1780, after a stalemate in the north, Cornwallis moved south and once again attempted to take Charleston with the help of fellow general Sir Henry Clinton. The southern city succumbed to British rule after a siege of three-months. Cornwallis pressed on to defeat General Horatio Gates at Camden, South Carolina, on August 16, 1780.

Almost immediately after American General Nathanael Greene took command of the southern armies, British fortunes in the South began to shift. American forces emerged victorious at the Battle of King’s Mountain in October and forces under Francis Marion and Thomas Sumter continued to plague Cornwallis’s men throughout the winter. American troops followed their success at King’s Mountain with a victory at the Battle of Cowpens in January 1781. The battle, which devastated Banastre Tarleton’s dragoons, was a major turning point in the war in the South. American forces continued to inflict heavy losses on Cornwallis and his men, most significantly at the Battle of Guilford Court House.

Cornwallis and his men continued falling back to the coast until they faced ultimate defeat and surrender at Yorktown on October 17, 1781. At the ceremonial surrender, Cornwallis claimed to be so ill he could not meet George Washington to surrender his sword; instead, he sent General Charles O’Hara, his second in command. Prisoner Cornwallis was later exchanged for Patriot Henry Laurens, former President of the Continental Congress. Defeat failed to stymie the Earl’s career and he went on to serve as Governor General of India and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He died in India in 1805.

Gordon Drummond (1772-1854) – Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada

Gordon Drummond

Gordon Drummond was born September 27, 1772 in Quebec and entered the army as an Ensign with the 1st Regiment of Foot in 1789. Drummond rose rapidly, promoted to Lieutenant in 1791, Captain in 1792, Major on February 28, 1794, and Lieutenant Colonel March 1, 1794. That year he saw his first action in the Netherlands, distinguishing himself at the Siege of Nijmegen. He was promoted to Colonel in 1798 and led the 8th Regiment of Foot during the Egyptian Campaign in 1801. In 1804, Drummond was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed to staff duties in Britain, later the same year he was promoted again to Major General. In 1808, he returned to Canada serving under Sir James Henry Craig. In that role he was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1811 and served as Commander of the Forces in Canada during the transition between Craig and Sir George Prevost, after which he assumed command of a military district in Northern Ireland. With the outbreak of the War of 1812, Drummond was transferred back to Canada to fill the void caused by the death of Isaac Brock, becoming Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada in 1813. Drummond’s aggressiveness helped bolster the defense of Canada; he recaptured Fort Niagara, defeated the Americans at the Battle of Buffalo, and fought them to a bloody standstill at Lundy’s Lane, where he was badly wounded in the neck. After Lundy’s Lane Drummond pursued the American’s to Fort Eire where he unsuccessfully laid siege. Following the Siege of Fort Eire, both sides withdrew to recover their losses, and the war ended before another offensive could be mounted. Following the war Drummond maintained his position, eventually taking over as Governor General of Canada. He returned to Britain in 1816 and received a knighthood and promotion to General in 1825 for his service, although he never saw action again. Drummond died on October 10, 1854 at age 82.

Thomas Gage (1720-1787) – General, Politician

Thomas Gage

(Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection)

Following the French and Indian War, General Thomas Gage was appointed Commander in Chief of all forces in North America in 1763.  Gage was later appointed as the Royal Governor of Massachusetts in 1774, in an attempt by Parliament to quell rising unrest there.  As Governor, Gage is credited for exacerbating tensions between the colonies and the mother country through the enforcement of gratuitous parliamentary policies and for encouraging Parliament to institute harsher punishments.  Upon receiving orders to take decisive actions to quell the growing rebellion and unrest, Gage ordered the advance on Lexington and Concord, thus sparking the Revolutionary War in 1775. Gage was later recalled by Parliament in 1775 and replaced by General Howe, following the staggering losses incurred at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

William Howe (1729-1814) – General, Politician

William Howe

(Anne S.K. Brown Military History Collection at Brown University)

Having served the Crown with distinction in the Seven Years' War and the War of Austrian Succession, Howe was called upon to lead troops in the American colonies under the command of Thomas Gage.  However, following the costly victory at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Howe assumed command of the British forces in America from Gage, in 1775.  Howe led successful campaigns resulting in the capture of Philadelphia and New York, but as Commander in Chief of British forces in North America, he was seen as the primary culprit for the disaster in Saratoga.  For failing to come to the aid of Burgoyne, Howe resigned his post in order to avoid the embarrassment of being relieved of command.

Alexander Innes (Unknown) – Colonel, Inspector General of Provincial Forces

While it is unclear when Alexander Innes was born, it seems likely that he was originally from somewhere in Scotland. Innes arrived in Charleston, South Carolina on April 19, 1775. On that fateful date, almost one thousand miles to the northeast, British forces clashed with the famed Minutemen at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Innes had been assigned to serve as the secretary to South Carolina’s Royal Governor Lord William Campbell. He was also secretly tasked with reporting on colonial politics to the Earl of Dartmouth, William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth, who was the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the Cabinet of Lord North, the British Prime Minister. Innes urged the government to send British troops to South Carolina. Events soon forced Innes to flee to a British warship in Charleston Harbor. Innes joined the British forces tasked with suppressing the American rebellion, eventually rising to the rank of Colonel and receiving an appointment in 1777 as the Inspector General of Provincial Forces. In 1780 he commanded Tory forces at the Battle of Musgrove’s Mill. Innes was wounded during the battle. He was apparently still alive at least as late as 1802 as he is listed in an index of British officers receiving half-pay that year.

Menawa (1765-1835) – Chief

Menawa 400 x 400

(Wikimedia Commons)

Born in 1765, Menawa was a polarizing political figure amongst the Creek Indians during the tribal disintegration of the early nineteenth century. Despite being of mixed origin with a Scottish father, Menawa assimilated into Native life while growing up in the Creek town of Okfuskee. Originally named Hothlepoya, “Crazy War Hunter,” Menawa’s leadership and popularity amongst the Creek exploded around the turn of the century as he struck fear in westward expanding pioneers by carrying out raids in nearby Tennessee. Having earned the trust and admiration of his people, he became the second chief of Okfuskee in 1811, at which time he procured the name, Menawa, “the Great Warrior.” By 1813, the Creek nation was splintered between Lower Creek, who were assimilating into the American lifestyle, and Upper Creek, who were starkly opposed to integration. The “Red Stick” band, headed by Menawa, was the most defiant of Creek holdouts, gaining national attention as Andrew Jackson mustered a small army to destroy them. In response to the United States’ involvement in the Creek Civil War, Menawa relocated the Red Sticks to Tehopeka, a village on the banks of the Tallapoosa River. There, the Red Sticks made their last stand against Jackson and his force of 3,300 on March 27, 1814 at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Despite losing 800 of his 1,000 warriors and being wounded seven times, Menawa was able to survive Horseshoe Bend by feigning death and escaping in a canoe that night. After cessation of hostilities, Menawa was able to reestablish his political influence within the tribe. Menawa continued his tenure in the public spotlight, even traveling to Washington DC to successfully nullify the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs. In 1836, the remaining Creeks in Alabama were forcibly removed to the Oklahoma Territory on what is now referred to as the “Trail of Tears,” Chief Menawa was one of thousands to die along the trek. His burial location is still unknown.

John Moore (? -1783) – Lieutenant Colonel

There is very little information available concerning Colonel John Moore, John Boyd’s second in command. In fact, some sources suggest his name may have been Patrick. There is a possibility he was wounded or captured at Kettle Creek, which would explain why Major William Spurgeon assumed command after Boyd was killed. In any event, he eventually returned to British service, leading Tory forces to disaster at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. It seems that he was eventually captured by the Patriots and hanged in 1783.

Edward Pakenham (1778-1815) – General

Edward Pakenham

(National Park Service)

Pakenham was an Anglo-Irish career officer in the British Army. Commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 92nd Regiment of Foot he first saw action during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and in the Caribbean. During the Peninsular War, he served as Adjutant-General to his brother-in-law Arthur Wellesley, who would later become the Duke of Wellington. He commanded units at the Battle of Bussaco and Fuentes de Oñoro, and a Division at Salamanca. For his actions, he was inducted into the Order of the Bath. After being promoted to Major General, he replaced General Robert Ross, who was killed prior to the Battle of North Point, as commander of the British North American Army in 1814. Pakenham was in command at the Battle of New Orleans, where he was mortally wounded at the age of 36. 

William Phillips (1731-1781) – Major General

William Phillips

(Library of Congress)

Phillips, a British Army officer and artilleryman, first saw combat at the Battle of Minden during the Seven Years War, where he received a reputation as an excellent artillery officer. Prior to the American Revolution, he served as Commander of Artillery at Woolwich.  In 1776 he was promoted to Major General and sent to North America, fighting at the Battle of Valcour Island and the recapture of Fort Ticonderoga, where he famously said “where a goat can go, a man can go, and where a man can go, he can drag a gun” regarding placing cannon on the critical Mount Defiance. He was captured at Saratoga with Burgoyne’s army. After being exchanged for Benjamin Lincoln he was ordered to Virginia with Benedict Arnold (now British), fighting at the Battle of Blandford. He contracted Typhoid Fever at Petersburg, Virginia, dying on May 13, 1781.

Augustine Prevost (1723-1786) – Major General


(Marther Brown)

Prévost was a Swiss born British Army officer. During the Seven Years War, Prévost was commissioned as a Major in the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot. The 60th was raised in North America, included many foreign and colonial Protestants, and was designed to utilize the forest tactics prevalent in North America. By the outbreak of the American Revolution, Prévost was a Colonel with the 60th, stationed in St. Augustine Florida. In 1778, Prévost was ordered to invade Georgia, arriving in Savannah in January of 1779, taking command of all British forces there with the rank of Brigadier General. Prévost, however, felt that he was too old for combat and asked to resign. He was replaced by General George Garth, who was captured before reaching Savannah leaving Prévost in command with the rank of Major General. Prévost was in command for the Siege of Savannah, returning to England after the British victory.   

Sir George Prévost, Baronet (1767-1816) – Lieutenant General, Governor General of Canada

George Prévost

(Wikimedia Commons)

Ironically for one of the preeminent British commanders in the War of 1812, George Prévost was born in New Jersey shortly before the American Revolution.  His father was Swiss born veteran of the French and Indian War and a British general in American Revolution most famous for his success at the Siege of Savannah, Georgia.  George Prévost followed his father into the British army as an officer.  He rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a lieutenant general and serving in several political posts before being named Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of British North America just before the war began.  His political leadership was marked by efforts to cooperate with native Canadians to avoid internal strife, which helped promote Canadian unity when war broke out.  Prévost also tried (unsuccessfully) to broker a truce in the Northern theater in the early days of the conflict when it seemed that the British government was willing to negotiate with the Americans.  After the war began, he personally took command of British troops in 1813 and 1814 when colleague died, but he had little success.  Together with internal conflict with his subordinates, his failed raid on the American shipyard at Sackets Harbor, New York, and his part in the British naval defeat at the Battle of Plattsburg damaged his reputation, and he was recalled to Britain where he died before he was fully able to clear his name.

Johann Rall (1726-1776) – Colonel

Johann Rall

(Wikimedia Commons)

Johann Gottlieb Rall (Rahl) was a career German army officer. He commissioned into the same regiment as his father, the Regiment Von Donop. Rall fought in the War of Austrian Succession, the Jacobite Rebellion, Seven Years War, and the Fourth Russo-Turkish War. By the time of the American Revolution, Rall was a seasoned soldier and Colonel of a Mansbach infantry regiment. In North America, Rall was assigned to General Phillip von Heister’s division, fighting at the Battles of Brooklyn, White Plains, and Long Island. In December of 1776, Rall was given command of the Hessian garrison at Trenton despite protests about his exposed position. Rall’s concern was affirmed when Washington attacked and captured most of Rall’s command at Trenton on December 26. During the battle Rall was mortally wounded, dying later that evening. 

Robert Ross (1776-1814) – General

Robert Ross

(Wikimedia Commons)

Ross was born in Ireland and commissioned into the 25th Regiment of Foot after completing college. As a junior officer during the French Revolutionary War he fought at Krabbendam and Alexandria, which earned him a promotion to Major and command of the 20th Regiment of Foot. During the Napoleonic Wars, he fought at the Battles of Maida and Corunna and was promoted to Colonel. He commanded his regiment on the Peninsula at the Battles of Vittoria, Roncesvalles, Sorauren, and Orthes, where he was wounded in the neck seriously. In 1814, shortly after recovering from his wound, Ross was ordered to the United States. Promoted to Major General and in command of all British forces on the East Coast, Ross landed at Benedict, Maryland and continued inland, defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg. Ross proceeded to Washington, where he burned the military and naval facilities, public buildings, Capitol, and the White House in retaliation for the American burning of York (Toronto), Canada. Landing his troops outside Baltimore, in what would develop into the Battle of North Point, Ross’ men encountered American skirmishers. While personally directing his men, Ross was mortally wounded by a sharpshooter, a day before the famous bombardment of Fort McHenry.  

Roger Hale Sheaffe (1763-1851) – General

Roger Hale Shaeffe

(Wikimedia Commons)

Sheaffe was born in Boston to Loyalist parents, and educated at Harvard. In 1778, he secured a commission in the 5th Regiment of Foot. He first saw action during the French Revolutionary Wars in Batavia and the Baltic. Sheaffe was considered a promising officer, and was promoted to Colonel in 1808 and Major General in 1811. When the War of 1812 broke out, Sheaffe was ordered to Canada, commanding at Fort George. For his defense of Upper Canada, Sheaffe was appointed Lieutenant Governor and awarded a Baronetcy. He was in command during the Battle of York, and the subsequent burning of the city by the Americans. Despite this setback, and being recalled to Britain, Sheaffe continued a successful military career, retiring as a full General in 1835. He died at his home in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1851. 

William Albertus Spurgeon Jr. (1734 -1806) – Major

William Albertus Spurgeon Jr. was born in 1734, likely in either Frederick County, Virginia or in Essex, England. At some point in the 1750s he married Mary Wellborn. By the time of the American Revolution, Spurgeon was a planter in Rowan County, North Carolina. At the Battle of Kettle Creek, Spurgeon was third in command of the Tory Force led by John Boyd. When Boyd was killed, however, it was Spurgeon, not his superior officer John Moore, who assumed command and organized a retreat that allowed a portion of the Tory force to escape. Spurgeon would go on to fight in several other battles in the Southern theater before going into hiding at the end of the war. Eventually he fled to Canada with other Loyalists, accompanied, according to some records, by the much younger wife of another man. Spurgeon died in Canada on August 13, 1806.

Alexander Stewart (1739-1794) – Colonel

Alexander Stewart

Stewart, born in Scotland, was a career British Army officer. Initially commissioned into the 37th Regiment of Foot, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 3rd Regimen of Foot in 1775. Stewart arrived in Charleston, South Carolina with the regiment in June of 1781. He took command of the British forces in Charleston after the commander, Lord Rawdon, fell ill and returned to Britain. Because of this, Stewart was in command at the Battle of Eutaw Springs. After the battle, he returned to Charleston with his forces for the remainder of the war. Following the American Revolution, Stewart continued his successful military career, rising to Major General in 1790 and serving in Parliament until his death in 1794.   

Banastre Tarleton (1754-1833) – General

Banastre Tarleton

(Wikimedia Commons)

Banastre Tarleton was born into a middle-class family in Liverpool, England, in August 1754. On April 19, 1775, while the Battle of Lexington and Concord was raging in the American colonies, Tarleton was studying law at Oxford. The following day, his father bought him a cornet’s commission from the King’s First Regiment of Dragoon Guards. By 1778, at age 23, Tarleton rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel of the British Legion.

Tarleton’s military success during the American Revolution in both the northern and southern theaters merited many illustrious titles. He played an active role in the battles of Monck’s Corner, Charleston, Waxhaws, Camden, Fishing Creek, Blackstocks, and Cowpens in the Carolinas. At the Battle of Waxhaws, however, his military career took a turn. Patriot soldiers accused his dragoons of disregarding a Patriot surrender by attacking the Americans after they laid down their arms. Afterward, Americans ascribed the moniker “butcher” to Tarleton and the “Waxhaws Massacre” or “Tarleton’s quarter” to the Battle of Waxhaws, shouting the latter as a rallying cry at the ensuing Battle of Cowpens.

On January 17, 1781, at the Battle of Cowpens, Daniel Morgan used Tarleton’s impetuosity against him. Morgan tricked Tarleton’s men into thinking they had successfully routed their adversary, luring them in with a fake retreat. Once Tarleton released his full force, Morgan’s men turned around to counterattack. Tarleton retreated with a few of his dragoons, but an old adversary, Colonel William Washington, followed him in desperate pursuit, determined to get revenge for past wrongs. The two men clashed in hand-to-hand combat, but Tarleton managed to escape. Nevertheless, the battle devastated Tarleton’s legion—100 killed, 229 wounded, 600 captured—and marked the beginning of the end of the British plan to re-annex the South.

Tarleton’s rash behavior in battle strained his relationships with his superiors who believed he was too reckless and lacked “military maturity.” His relationship with General Charles Cornwallis became particularly tense. After Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown, when Patriot leaders invited British leaders to dine with them. Tarleton was not included. The Americans made it clear that the omission was a deliberate censure for his ruthless treatment of Continental soldiers.

After being paroled at Yorktown, Tarleton returned to England. He continued his military career and went into politics, becoming a Member of Parliament in 1790. He continued to receive military promotions, first as colonel in 1790, and then, as major general in 1794. In the Napoleonic Wars, he served under the Duke of Wellington. In 1815, he was awarded a baronetcy, and in 1820, he was knighted by the King.

Tenskwatawa (1775-1836) – Chief

Tenskwatawa 400 x 400

(Wikimedia Commons)

Originally born Lalawethika, meaning “the rattle” in Algonquian, Tenskwatawa was a unique individual living on the fringe of Shawnee society. At the young age of four his mother abandoned him and his siblings, leaving them alone and in the care of older tribesmen. During his formative years, Tenskwatawa proved to be out of tune with the athletic lifestyle of the Native Americans, never grasping the art of fighting or hunting, it is said that he even lost his right eye while notching an arrow. Tenskwatawa became an alcoholic, and claimed that one evening in 1805 while under the bottle he fell into a trance where he was visited by the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit prompted him to reject the ways of the European settlers, including alcohol consumption. After his spiritual awakening Lalawethika changed his name to Tenskwatawa, the “open door,” and began preaching resistance to nearby tribes. Paired with his brother Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa created Prophetstown in 1808, a settlement designed to be the heart of a new Native American confederation that would halt the advance of white settlement. Tenskwatawa took the role of medicine man while his brother Tecumseh was the military leader. Prophetstown was destroyed in 1811 by William Henry Harrison following the Battle of Tippecanoe, effectively ending any hopes of a Native American confederation and ruining Tenskwatawa’s reputation as a prophet. With Prophetstown in ruins, Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh allied with the British in the upcoming War of 1812. Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa played an integral role in the capture of Fort Detroit in 1812 by British and Native American forces. Tenskwatawa returned to the United States in 1825 and assisted in the relocation of the Shawnee to Kansas. He died in 1836 a forgotten leader once again living on the fringe of society.

Political Personalities to Know

King George William Frederick III (1738-1820) – King of Great Britain

King George William Frederick III

(National Portrait Gallery, London)

At the age of twenty-two, George III of Great Britain inherited one of the world’s most powerful empires.  He likewise led this empire through some of the very first global and massive conflicts: the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812.  As the rebellious spirit grew, George III became the symbol of tyranny and oppression among colonials, with American patriots blaming him for the oppressive acts being levied upon them.  In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson vilified George III and argued that it was his neglect and misuse of the American colonies which justified their revolution and separation from Great Britain.  On the heels of Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, George III authorized peace negotiations which produced the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

Lord Frederick North (1732-1792) – Prime Minister of Britain, Politician

Lord Frederick North

(Wikimedia Commons)

While holding many offices throughout his life, North was eventually appointed by King George III to serve as Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1770.  His early successes as Prime Minister brought him the confidence of George III and Parliament.  When war broke out between Great Britain and her American colonies in 1775, North was tasked with bringing a swift resolution to the crisis, and with restoring control over the colonies.  The British high command in North America was plagued by infighting, jealousy, and underperformance, which not only reflected negatively upon North, but likewise hampered military operations there.  As a result of the eventual loss of the war, Lord North was removed as Prime Minister in 1782, and forever has been known as the minister who lost America.

Learn More: Key Figures of the American Revolution: The American Patriots